Memories of an MMO: These things can be free!?

In my ongoing series regarding my thoughts on the MMO scene, it’s time to examine the slew of games out there that are free to play.

After months of playing FFXIV Online, I began exploring the genre. After all, I’d spent the majority of my gaming life with RPGs and action/adventure titles (i.e. God of War, Silent Hill, LBP, Metal Gear, FF, KH, and so on) and I knew little of the MMO genre at all. What motivated me into exploring was actually the result of the game I was playing: why was the critical response to FFXIV so bad? Why didn’t the players like it? What was it missing? Apart from my own frustrations with the game (and my sticktoitiveness to overcome said frustrations), I wasn’t really sure how valid the criticism was. So it was time to make a foray and discover what the other MMOs were doing and why they were doing it well.

And since I don’t walk around with bags of money and coins overflowing my pockets, the MMOs had to be free. Did such a thing exist?

Hells yes. Seriously: have you people actually explored the VAST number of free games available these days? It’s actually quite impressive to see that these games are not only free, but that the studios continue to support them as long as they retain a decent player base. Here’s a quick few:

  • Runes of Magic
  • Shaiya
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online
  • Age of Conan
  • Runescape
  • League of Legends
  • Fiesta Online

Much like a player is set to invest months (and sometimes years) into an MMO, so too is the commitment for a game studio to this type of game: bug support, patches, new content, exclusive content.  For game studios to be able to provide these games to players at no cost** is not only a significant commitment, but a strong sign of the way in which the MMO genre as a whole is changing. Monthly subscription fees now exist only for the minority of games, and they are often AAA titles that have budgets in excess of millions (i.e. Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI). Free MMOs, by contrast, are not AAA titles. They are instead crafted by smaller studios who may never release another game. But they want to be strongly vested in one title that can offer great longevity to the company and the player. As a result, most of the free MMOs will not have the production values of their AAA siblings, but they can easily be just as much fun once you get into them. And when it comes down to it, the gameplay is what makes the difference no matter how pretty the graphics turn out to be (FFXIV is a perfect example of this).

But if you’re someone who is looking at breaking into the genre, there has never been a better time to play. It’s even worth it to download most of them just to see if you like them because there is no risk involved and thousands of others are already playing.

Next time: a free game, not in the list above, that deserves everyone’s attention.

**Most of these free MMOs include a voluntary payment system in the form of an exclusive in-game currency (i.e. gems, runes, crystals and the like). Such currencies are used to purchase exclusive items, upgrades and features for a character. Players who want to be unique or have the best gear can choose to pay money in exchange for exclusive currencies, which in turn also supports the game studio.

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